In our series about the product discovery process, we’ve talked about the importance of product data on your website. We’ve explained how your vendor product data can fuel your website for effective digital merchandising. But what about the online product discovery process?
Product data feeds the big search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It says to the shoppers, “Hey! Here are is the product you’re researching.” But will it be your store that shows up?
That’s why vendor product data is such a critical component to the product discovery process. In reality, it’s the first step.
To break this out easily, let’s see how product data influences different parts of the customer’s journey.
There are variations of the furniture shopper’s journey through the sales process. While there is some flexibility, the overall concept is the same.
How Product Data Influences the Awareness Stage
What is happening to buyers during the awareness stage in the product discovery process? A lot of research. Buyers are at the very beginning of researching products. In many cases, they may not be looking for anything. But still, want to consume content that inspires them. Think Instagram.
The goal of the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey is to attract the shopper to your store. They’re browsing social media, watching videos, and doing searches on Google when they see something that sparks a need.
Now, many retailers might say, “furniture isn’t an impulse purchase.” And you’re right. But the buyer’s journey—specifically the awareness stage isn’t about finding the right product. Not yet. We want customers to find your store online.
So how does product data on your website fuel the product discovery process in the awareness stage?
Easier Product Discovery Process
If you’re a retailer, employ smart search engine optimization best practices to help content rank high in searches over time. As more people visit a product page, buy and review, it will move up in the search engine ranking.
Search engines want to show searchers content that’s popular and relevant to them. The same goes for social media. As you gain traction, you’ll note that social media sites like Instagram and YouTube begin recommending your content to new customers.
Your data has to be digital and on the website. It needs to be complete, accurate, and consistent with your in-store brands. This is the hardest part of the product data online initiative. Many retailers can’t keep up. Here are some tips to help you:
Develop a plan to be consistent. It’s so easy to push content creation and updating to the back-burner when tax time rolls around, or the holiday foot traffic is insane. Be consistent and you’ll get to the point where people discover content independently of you. Add that saves you time and money in the long run.
Set an update schedule to ensure the content stays current. Set a creation level goal. Get there. And then maintain for a while, publishing in regular intervals and measuring your results.
Using Product Data to Improve Product Discovery Online
Think videos and image galleries embedded into digital sell sheets and product catalogs. Think stunning imagery, the kind that makes people gasp in awe and long to buy a product–or whole line.
This is what people share on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. It’s what people click to visit a website.
Telling a Story with Product Descriptions and Images
Bullet points help people distinguish similar items from each other. But reading a dry list of features for product after product doesn’t make for a delightful experience, it doesn’t evoke emotion. Products start running together. Nothing is memorable enough for a deeper glance.
Vivid details set product descriptions apart from your competitors. And they help tell that story about how a piece will enhance the life of the customer. To create a vivid description, elaborate on things like
- Style origin
- Material source
- Design ideas and ways a product can be used
Images should be equally vibrant, not only showcasing the product in 3D but also giving it context through staging images. Again, you’re telling its story that will become the customer’s story.
Beautiful static pages can go a long way. But consider the many ways you can make that product catalog interactive to further make your catalog a centerpiece truly worthy of your brand.
How Product Data Influences the Consideration Stage
The consideration stage is when buyers are aware of your store and some of what you’re about. But they don’t have loyalty to your store or know everything you can do for them. So the goal is to keep shoppers engaged. From social media channels to the website. Your product merchandising online should help this process of selling the customer. But what else can you do to show shoppers everything you can offer that they may be interested in? How do you keep them engaged and get them to the store?
Adding Interactivity to Digital Product Catalogs
There are many things to consider:
- Give the product some context with charts that compare features with similar products.
- Embed a product draping tool. This allows a customer to see what that accent chair will really look like with that “out there” pattern. Generate more happy customers and fewer returns when customers know exactly what they’re getting.
- Invite them to use your augmented reality room design tool and share on social media.
- Prominently display product reviews even if the item has no reviews. Simply having a place for a customer to review shows transparency that customers like. This builds trust.
- Include a map and some interesting country/people facts if the product has an intriguing source. Use expandable text to avoid cluttering your page. This also generates another interactive element
Interactive elements like these keep people on your site longer. Each second spent and each click made gets a potential customer closer to making that purchase for you.
But also create interactive tools for both customers and your sales team. Virtual reality and augmented reality design tools allow a person to build their perfect living room or see what a sofa will look like in their den before they buy it. Product draping and 3D product visualizations let someone see what that accent chair looks like in different available patterns and colors online. It takes the guesswork out of buying online. So you have fewer returns and unhappy customers.
Create content that helps customers easily compare features. Not only are you helping them make a decision. This may help them discover new products that they hadn’t considered.
Leverage the Power of the Site Search Box
What a customer searches for and clicks on your site tells you a lot about their intent. You could think of each search independently. Or employ basic machine learning tools to start putting the pieces together. For example, if someone previously searched for “red sofas” and then they just search for “chairs”, you could push that gorgeous red accent chair to the top of the list to be sure they see it.
Some searches can render dozens of pages. Unless you have a very diligent shopper, they’re unlikely to make it past page 2 or 3.
When it comes to furniture, style and needs preference are many. To compete, you need to have options unless you’re dominating a niche.
Streamlining search is a way to present fewer options first, but present the options most likely to be purchased. Digital merchandising retail strategies are win-wins for you and the customer.
What about visitors who land on your website and leave without moving forward? Let’s talk about some intelligent digital marketing tactics.
You can take this a step further by using remarketing ads that display on your website and the partner sites of the ad platforms Facebook or Google AdWords. These ads showcase products that a person has recently visited or similar items that a person might like.
Use remarketing not only to make that first sale with a new customer. Some of the most valuable remarketing you’ll do is when you bring customers back to make a 2nd, 3rd or even 100th purchase.
Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and will spend 31% more, yet most businesses spend over 80% of their marketing time, money and effort trying to attract new customers. You need to attract new customers to stay viable, but digital merchandising retail can be very strong retention, upsell, and shorten the sales cycle tool.
And this brings us to where our digital product catalogs fit into your digital merchandising retail master plan.
How Product Data Influences the Decision Stage
Your goal in the Decision stage needs to be very targeted. By this point, you may have an in-store visit from the customer. How do you handle the sales process from online to in-store? Check out our last blog.
If you’re enabling ecommerce or allowing shop online and pick up in store, you need to focus on the product page conversions.
You may be limited to a certain number of SKUs or brands when creating product data because of time and money constraints. But you can make every page on your website more dynamic.
Each page on your website doesn’t have to be a video or interactive tool. Product data is also the little things you do like:
- Adding social media icons
- Embedding business reviews from other sites like Yelp or Google My Business
- Embedding product reviews from the manufacturer or another source
- Adding Google maps
- Allowing comments and reviews directly on a page
These elements build instant trust with customers regardless of whether they’ve heard of you before. And that’s what you want when you enhance product discovery process online.
Considerations for Vendors
If you’re a manufacturer, then you want your dynamic content to be found on all the retailer website. Develop a system to communicate updates and transfer the publish-ready content to them. The less they have to do to put in on their website, the better.
Create an enhanced online product catalog that becomes the go-to source for retailers. With the right systems in place, you can even automate updates on retailer websites each time you update your catalog.
When you make it easy for retailers, they get it up faster and more dependable. Also, leverage social media. Share content on social media to both strengthen your brand and increase sales through your retail partners.
Encourage Product Discovery
Digitally merchandising furniture to favor trending items—items that also align with a shopper’s personal style—you encourage them to keep exploring your website. A modern website is no longer a static place. It’s a dynamic digital showroom. And it should appeal to a variety of customers who should land on your pages.
Are you struggling to keep your digital product catalog up-to-date? Is it a massive, manual, tedious and costly process? When information is out of date, includes SKUs are no longer available from the manufacturer or everything a person clicks is out of stock, this creates a poor customer experience. Even your most loyal, has-written-you-a-hundred-glowing-reviews, tells-all-their-friends type customer will flee screaming. And what’s the thing about product catalogs that aren’t effectively updated? They get worse over time.
It’s vital that you have systems to update data straight from the manufacturer and automate the process to reduce excessive work hours spent doing monotonous updates.
Now, it’s easy to think of digital merchandising retail strategies like these as independent of your physical store. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Interactive tools like a room design tool make searching for the perfect complementing items entertaining and helpful. Making those results sharable on social media helps to build support from friends and family, encouraging them to move forward with their purchases. In some cases, the family will want to pitch in if the person just bought a home, got married, etc. You can facilitate this common customization.